A Prairie Home Companion Host Chris Thile Is Coming To Tampa

Oct 9, 2017

The new season of a "Prairie Home Companion" can be heard on WUSF every weekend.

And on Wednesday, its host will be in Tampa to play a concert at the Straz Center.

Chris Thile first rose to prominence with his Grammy winning bluegrass group Nickel Creek and later formed the alternative leaning bluegrass group, The Punch Brothers. The 36-year old musician is also a highly-sought collaborator and has recorded and toured with musicians from cellist Yo-Yo Ma to jazz pianist Brad Mehldau.

The virtuoso mandolinist, singer, and songwriter, made his debut on "A Prairie Home Companion" when he was just 15 and was hand-picked by Garrison Keillor to take over as host of the public radio show in 2016.

WUSF's Cathy Carter recently spoke with Chris Thile ahead of his show in Tampa.

"Chris, you spent part of your summer touring with your band the Punch Brothers, you just started the second season of "A Prairie Home Companion," and you have a toddler at home. So what can you tell us about sleep deprivation?"

"Ha! I think we should conference my wife in on that one actually. She is the authority on sleep deprivation. But you know, it's kind of the great question now. How do we stay productive while we're doing so much? It's the malaise of our time and we all have to kind of figure out how to navigate those waters."

"Well, yes, because we have so many distractions now with social media and with cell phones but what is it about a shared experience like listening to "A Prairie Home Companion" that resonates with so many people?"

"Well I would love to think that the show can be an antidote to exactly the stuff that we're talking about right now. There's a church- ish aspect to it and I think that for someone like me who was raised going to church on Sundays, regardless of what I was actually absorbing from that experience, there was the centering aspect of it that I crave as an adult. And I think people regardless of their backgrounds, crave a certain sort of centering, especially now. And to come together on a Saturday night around the radio as if it were some sort of network campfire to share in some hearable art, is I think  a very powerful and somewhat religion like experience."

"And you grew up listening to  "A Prairie Home Companion."

"Oh yeah, every Saturday.  "A Prairie Home Companion," but also everything on public radio. That is not a generational pleasure. I think it should be generation-less. My parents were in their early 20's when they started listening to "A Prairie Home Companion." I was born in 1981 and my parents were already avid listeners so it's among my earliest memories, hearing Garrison Keillor’s voice in our living room on Saturday and hearing public radio in general. I mean, my parents just turned it on in the morning and didn't turn it off until bedtime."

A Prairie Home Companion airs Saturdays at 6pm and Sundays at 12 noon on WUSF 89.7
Credit Nonesuch Records

Yet there were plenty of skeptics who said it "A Prairie Home Companion" couldn't possibly continue without Garrison Keillor. That proved to be wrong, congratulations, it's still very popular."

"Thank you so much! Well, I think people were absolutely right. When most of us who are fans of the show thought of the show, the first thing that you thought about was Garrison’s voice and that of course couldn't continue without his direct participation. The only thing that people maybe didn't have in their direct field of vision was the monumental achievement that is the format of the show. That is not contingent on his direct involvement. If you think of like Haydn's impact on the string quartet or something like that, the string quartet didn't die with Haydn. My theory is that this format that Garrison Keillor created, can live on apart from his direct involvement in the show."

"Well, you hosted 13 episodes last season and congratulations, you now have a full 26 episodes for this new season."

"Yes! I feel like now we're really going to be able to create an arc.  It feels a little bit more like a novel as opposed to a short story. And we've got we've got a lot of new ideas.  I'm really, really excited about this season of show."

"We are too, and you can hear "A Prairie Home Companion" each weekend right here on WUSF and you can see Chris Thile in concert at the Straz Center in Tampa this Wednesday. Chris, it was very good to talk to you."

"Oh, thank you to all of you for the support! Thanks for the incredible gift of the second season. If you all hadn't kept tuning in, I'd be on an interview talking about some other project and I'm just delighted to be talking about this one still, because I feel like there's work to be done yet. So thank you all from the bottom of my heart."

Chris Thile plays the Straz Center in Tampa Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 7 pm